Opinion

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    More HHS students take the SAT than the ACT. | by Clement Doucette

    by Clement Doucette

    For students residing in the East and West Coasts of the United States, sitting for the SAT is an integral part of the college applications process.  Many take the College Board’s trademark exam multiple times and enroll in prep classes with the hopes of obtaining the best score. Meanwhile, these students’ Midwestern counterparts prepped for the ACT, the College Board exam’s chief competitor.  

    For many years, this testing breakdown occurred along geographic lines and still does.  The Massachusetts Department of Education does not report average ACT scores at high schools as it does with SAT scores.  However, recent statistics have shown that these boundaries are breaking down. In 2012, the Washington Post reported that for the first time, the number of students who took the ACT college admissions test outnumbered those who took the SAT.  In the following years, the number of ACT test takers increased rapidly.

    Hudson High School does not seem to have gotten this memo.  School counselors still extensively promote the SAT. HHS does not offer ACT sittings, making it difficult for students to take the test.  They must travel to either Marlborough High School or Algonquin Regional High School, a challenge for students who lack reliable transportation. HHS also offers an SAT prep class while completely ignoring prep for the ACT.  

    Rather than promoting one test, students should be encouraged to take the test that best fits their learning and test taking styles.  While many will say that the two standardized tests are similar, their content and structure varies. Encouraging students to take one test while ignoring other options is not ideal.

    English teacher Jennifer Wallingford has been teaching an SAT prep class for twenty years.  Over the years, the format and types of test questions have changed, making it more challenging to teach test-taking strategies.

    “The test has changed maybe two or three times since I’ve been teaching the course,” said Wallingford.  “Back in the day we used to have to help people with analogies. That was awesome, and I miss it. The analogies were like riddles that you had to solve.  They were these little discrete problems that, dare I say, were fun to go over with everybody. But now, everything is passage based.”

    Contrary to the former analogy-based questions, a student cannot use one surefire strategy to answer the new passage-based questions.  While the lack of a surefire strategy may be a downside, the new questions require students to use “real world” skills that they would use in a standard high school English class.

    “The newest version of the test asks new questions about where evidence was located for the answer to the previous question,” said Wallingford.  “There’s no fun way to teach that. It was a little more entertaining, believe it or not, to teach the skills and strategies. Now, students really just read a passage, paraphrase what is in the passage, and determine where they are finding the evidence.”

    Still, the SAT poses a significant challenge when compared to the MCAS, the state standardized test that affords test takers an unlimited amount of time.  Although the content of the SAT has changed, cultivating time management skills remains a crucial lesson taught in the prep class. The new, evidence-oriented questions make time management more challenging. Test takers must read five passages and answer fifty-two questions in sixty-five minutes.

    “Most of my information has to do with specific uses of time and how to use time wisely,” said Wallingford.  “So, skills like skimming a passage rather than reading it carefully or ignoring answer choices and spending more time back in the text. We practice reading and thinking the way they might not be in their classes and that they didn’t have to for the MCAS.”

    The format of the SAT may not be ideal for all students, despite the efforts of prep programs.  While the ACT presents similar time management problems, the SAT has been known to include questions that could trip up some, especially in the math section. It presents conceptually simple problems in a complex or convoluted manner.  A student with strong computational skills could still struggle with the math section, which now requires critical thinking ability that students can hone through prep classes and practice.

    This SAT math question presents a simple algebra concept in a convoluted manner by presenting variables in the problem and in answer choices. | by PrepScholar.com

    In general, the SAT is more math-heavy than the ACT.  There are two sections of math; one that allows students to use a calculator and one that does not.  The ACT includes one hour-long math section with sixty questions that permits test takers to use a calculator.  For students who excel in reading and English, the ACT may be the better test. It includes two English-based sections and the science section, which tests students’ critical reading abilities.  Still, many students fail to take the ACT even though their scores could be stronger.

    According to 2017 data presented in the Hudson High School profile, only 34% of students sat for the ACT, compared with the 77% of students who sat for the SAT.  Many students may be lacking the potential benefits of taking both tests, or taking the test that best suits the students. Additionally, this report showed slightly higher scores for ACT takers when compared to SAT takers.  SAT takers earned, on average, a composite score of 1123. ACT takers scored an average of 24.3. When converted to match the SAT scale, the average ACT score is an 1160-1190.

    While the school does not keep official data on score improvements from the prep class, counselor Angie Flynn noted that students who took the class improved their scores by roughly 20-30 points after a pre-course pretest.  While the prep course has benefits for students taking the SAT, taking the ACT may be another option for students to improve their scores.

    Senior Paige Mega took both the SAT and the ACT.  Although she did not take the school-offered prep class, she scored higher on the ACT.  Prior to a meeting with guidance, Mega did not know that the ACT was an option.

    “I think the SAT was definitely pushed more because there was the prep class,” said Mega.  “I know personally that I researched the ACT myself. I went with other people to the testing site and we carpooled, and they didn’t even know there was a science part or an essay part.”

    While students should still be aware of the contents of the test, part of this problem may be attributable to the promotion of the SAT over the ACT.  The College Board still reigns supreme in Massachusetts and the East Coast where the majority of students take the SAT. These geographic boundaries are restrictive and keep students from exploring ACT testing options.  Mega described the ACT’s science section as a factor that boosted her score.

    “I’m going into a science field, so it helps to have the science component to raise my score,” said Mega.  “I think people don’t realize that that’s a component of the ACT, even though it might benefit them. I also think the math was somewhat easier.  I think if science is your strong suit, you should definitely take it, and maybe if math isn’t your strong suit, you should also take the ACT.”

    Still, these benefits may stay unknown to many students.  The ACT is infrequently discussed in school presentations, and test takers do not have the advantage of a school-offered prep class.

    “I think that guidance could present both as an option,” said Mega.  They could maybe offer a prep course for the ACT or a general standardized test prep course that helps you with both instead of just the SAT.”

    Running a joint SAT and ACT prep class could teach students skills for taking both tests.  Both tests require students to use skills such as time management, efficient reading, and locating evidence in passages.  Wallingford noted that the two tests are becoming more and more alike.

    “I think the new SAT is trying to be more like the ACT,” said Wallingford.  “My understanding is that some of the SAT questions are a little more interpretive, which is what I saw with the ACT.  The ACT also includes a science section, and the SAT made sure that they put two science passages in the reading section.  The SAT doesn’t penalize for the wrong answers the way that they used to, which the ACT never did.”

    By teaching skills that are applicable to both tests, students could determine which test is ideal for their test taking style and academic strengths.  Students who have strong science and reading skills could be encouraged to take the ACT first, as a result of its inclusion of a science section. In general, the ACT is more reading-heavy and lacks the two math sections found in the SAT.  On the other hand, students with strong math skills would likely excel when taking the test’s two math sections.

    While both tests are equally difficult in their own way, it is imperative that students are aware of their options.  The impersonal process of standardized testing could be personalized if counselors discuss options with students and work to determine the ideal testing strategy.  Expansion of the pre-existing prep course could bring prep benefits to students who wish to take the SAT.

    The choice of standardized tests should not be based on arbitrary factors such as geography or testing site locations.

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      Junior Cam Miele is pronounced the winner of Friday's "Mr. HHS" pageant after being handed the trophy belt by senior Tim Cabral. | by Siobhan Richards

      by Clement Doucette

      Before attending Friday’s “Mr. HHS” pageant, I’ll admit that I felt a bit apprehensive.  I had heard rumors that some acts performed during rehearsals could be sexist or could push the boundaries of a school-sanctioned event.  In particular, Jordan Bushey’s act about picking up girls concerned me. As I entered the auditorium that Friday, however, I spotted a wide array of students and members of the community. My apprehensions soon vanished when I saw that the pageant unified, not divided, the school community.

      The Mr. HHS pageant, last hosted in 2012, returned after a six-year hiatus.  Members of the senior class, the Drama Society, Spirit Committee, and the dance team worked with class advisers Erin Cothran and Mike Nanartowich to bring the pageant back.  Last held in 2012, support for the pageant declined as school spirit dropped. However, a noted increase in school spirit spearheaded by members of the senior class prompted its return.  Senior class adviser Erin Cothran noted the spike in spirit and sought to bring the pageant back to the high school’s stage.

      “Mr. HHS was something that was happening when I was a student here at Hudson High,” said Cothran. “I decided that we were having such a real high with spirit here at Hudson High that we thought we would pitch it to the kids and see if people would buy in, and they have.  It has been fabulous.”

      Students enthusiastically supported the pageant’s return, abating Cothran’s fears that students would be unwilling to participate.

      “At the end of the day, if we weren’t going to have any interest in it, we weren’t really going to put too much effort into it,” said Cothran.  “We had discussed that we would have a cutoff of around twelve. We ended up having exactly twelve people interested and twelve people that were truly committed.”

      Student commitment to the event also demonstrates the ability of students to unite upper and underclassmen.  In total, seven seniors, three juniors, and two sophomores participated in Mr. HHS. In general, most students expressed excitement at seeing their classmates on stage.  

      “I think that it has been a bright spot for a lot of kids. They are looking forward to seeing their classmates have a laugh at their own expense,” said Cothran.  “One of my sophomore contestants is in my class, and all of my sophomores in the class want to come and support him. They want me to save a whole row just for them so that they can support Andrew.”

      While Mr. HHS unified students from different grades, it also brought together members of the Drama Society and the pageant participants.  

      “It’s not just these twelve people; there’s been huge support from the drama community who are helping us with the lights and the program,” said Cothran.  “Ben Carme has been outstanding with designing the program and other students with the music.”

      Mr. HHS represented one of the rare instances of cooperation across all sectors of the school community. Senior Drama Society member Katie Moran noted the benefits of the cooperation between the contestants and Drama Society.

      “I hate categorizing people like this, but the drama kids and the athletes that were working in Mr. HHS connected and made friendships,” said Moran.  “They had a group chat together, and I would hear them talking all the time; they had inside jokes together which was really cool.”

      According to Moran, this cooperation represents a rare show of unity that the high school lacked.  

      “The senior athletes and sophomore drama kids talking together and actually saying ‘hi’ to each other in the halls is something I’ve never seen in my years here,” said Moran.  “I would love to see the two groups united more because that’s how it used to be, apparently. There’s been separation, but I think if both ‘sides’ work together, great productions could be made and the community here at school would be so much nicer.”

      The Mr. HHS pageant could also serve to bring awareness to the Drama Society’s work.  Members of the Drama Society have noted a division between themselves and the rest of the school.  Hopefully, participants in Mr. HHS will audition and participate in future drama productions.

      “I’m hoping that they reach out to drama kids now to ask when the next audition is,” said Moran.  “I’d love to see the population of Drama Society grow because of it.”

      Senior Andy Lenox, a participant in the pageant, noted that it could not have taken place without the help of the Drama Society.

      “They helped us with everything we wanted to do,” said Lenox.  “They gave all of us stage directors, and a couple of us would go to a certain person in Drama Society who helped with each performance and each act.  Our transition from practicing in the gym to the auditorium was a big shift for us, and they made it so much easier. We are very thankful for them.”

      Working one-on-one with Drama Society members facilitated an atmosphere of cooperation and friendship, bringing together diverse student groups.

      “Being involved in Mr. HHS was one of my favorite high school experiences so far,” said Lenox. “We just put in so much effort and work.  Everyone was working together and working hard for so long; I’m just glad that it came out as well as it did.”

      Events such as Mr. HHS could have the potential to unite students from all groups within the school community, and continuing the pageant in the years to come could bring the Drama Society and the athletic crowds even closer.  As long as the pageant’s humor is not discriminatory or offensive and school spirit remains elevated, it could continue to be successful in the years to come. In fact, more events like Mr. HHS should be present in the school calendar.  Mr. HHS demonstrates the power of humor to unite students from across our school.

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        Local poets worked with students during a TASC advisory period at Contoocook Valley Regional High School. | by ConVal Staff

        by Clement Doucette

        Changing the Hudson High School schedule has always been a rocky and difficult process.  

        A previous schedule change, conducted in 2013, introduced the current, five-block rotation.  However, since the implementation of this schedule, a committee of concerned faculty members has noticed an increasing divide in our school’s culture.  Teachers June Murray and Lonnie Quirion lead this committee, known as ARC (Academics, Relationships, and Community). Their work began with a desire to mend this cultural divide.

        “It felt like we were moving farther and farther away from things that were always really important to me, like service and relationships,” said Murray. “We decided the best way to start this process was by creating a survey and trying to figure out where students and staff landed regarding how things had shifted in our culture.”

        The results of the survey confirmed the ARC committee’s beliefs.  Using the survey as a basis for their work, the committee pondered various ways to address the increasing problem.

        The results of the ARC survey revealed a divide between students and faculty. | by Clement Doucette

        “The idea began with the concept of perhaps having an advisory program,” said Murray. “However, we have a history at Hudson High School when we tried a program similar to an advisory period called “clustering” that didn’t necessarily work as well as we had hoped.”

        School administration implemented clustering after the construction of the current Hudson High School building in the early 2000s  It involved students meeting once weekly to participate in a teacher-monitored activity of their choice.  Students and teachers would pick their activities at the start of the school year.  

        Although the program functioned in theory, a lack of student participation marred the effectiveness of the program.  Many did not take the programs seriously.  Clustering continued for several years until it was finally discontinued, leaving many faculty members with bad memories.  Still, the ARC committee insists that their advisory program would not face the same struggles that clustering faced.

        “I did a lot of talking to people and there was this woman, Rachel Calder, who is probably one of the most cutting edge people who works with schools to help them change their structure,” said Murray. “One of the things she said to me was to contact the ConVal High School in Peterborough, New Hampshire, because they were doing something interesting.”

        At Contoocook Valley Regional High School, frequently shortened to “ConVal,” students participate in a daily, 40-minute advisory period called TASC, intended for academic support and enrichment.  At the start of the week, students work with a “home-base” TASC adviser to arrange their schedule for the following four days.  For example, a student struggling with math may choose to work with their math teacher during one of that week’s advisory periods.  During these TASC periods, teachers work with no more than fifteen students at a time.

        The ARC committee will base their schedule on the ConVal High School schedule with a 40-minute advisory period. | by Clement Doucette

        Although it may seem difficult to track students during the period, a high-tech solution amends this problem.  Teachers conduct scheduling through a custom-made computer program designed by a ConVal staff member.  ConVal offers this program to other interested schools at prices ranging from $1,500 to $3,000, depending on features, and comes with an app that would allow students to access their schedule through the week.  If students do not show up for their advisory period, they face discipline for skipping class.

        Gretchen Houseman, a Spanish teacher and member of the ARC committee, sees this scheduling system as a benefit to her students.

        “In terms of scheduling, it really calls the students to take ownership of their own schedule, and I really liked that,” said Houseman.  “The students could decide what they were interested in, who they would be with, and where they would go during that time.”

        Principal Brian Reagan also appreciates these aspects of the schedule.  He has worked with the ARC committee throughout the program’s development and is a crucial link between ARC teachers and school administration.  Reagan would play a leading role in contract negotiation procedures, the next step in the program’s implementation.

        Faculty conduct contract negotiation whenever there is a school change that could alter working conditions.  During this procedure, teachers and faculty meet during labor negotiation meetings to determine if there is a significant change in working conditions that would require amendments to the employee contract.  

        “It all depends on how it gets presented from our side and received by the labor side,” said Reagan.  “We did a survey, and we have a decent amount of support among faculty members, so I feel like there is a positive momentum behind it.  I’m hopeful that that isn’t where we get caught up.”

        Despite the uncertainty of the contract negotiation process, Murray still believes that the committee could implement the program in a timely manner.

        “We’ve created a fact sheet that has answers to staff questions that will be sent out to them, in addition to a mock schedule and a description of what an ARC advisor does,” said Murray.  “Upon feedback from them, the hope is that by second semester of next year, we might be looking at a transition. That’s the hope.”

        Still, the ARC program has its critics.  Some teachers have expressed fears that the block would cut precious time out of their classes.  AP teachers, already subjected to tight testing schedules, could feel the time reduction the most.  They fear losing seven to nine minutes of class each day.  Spanish teacher Gretchen Houseman prefers to look at this time reduction differently.

        “Instead of seeing it as time lost, I am thinking of it as time reallocated for another purpose,” said Houseman.  “For example, a student who is strong in English maybe doesn’t need those seven minutes of English instruction, but needs an extra thirty minutes of math instruction.”

        Despite the positive outlook of committee members, there are some drawbacks to the program’s implementation.  In addition to the reduction in class time, teachers have also expressed concern with the number of students that they would instruct during this period.  From an outside perspective, helping fifteen students during a forty-minute period may seem manageable.  However, this would leave teachers with a mere two minutes and forty-five seconds per student.

        While student numbers could be managed through the use of the computer program, the software implementation would impact the tight school budget.  Declining school choice figures have hit Hudson hard, and finding an extra $1,500 to $3,000 may be easier said than done.

        Even if there were ample funds in the budget, Hudson’s history with the failed clustering program could hamper implementation.  Some long standing Hudson High staff members remember its failure and are cautious of implementing another advisory program.

        Still, there is a clear and pressing decline in school culture.  Using an advisory program may be a resolution to this decline, although it must be implemented cautiously.  The precedent of clustering shows that changing the school schedule never has been and never will be a simple and controversy-free process.  

        The school can take steps to reduce these hurdles.  Beginning with a semester-long pilot program would allow for students and staff to get a sense for the program without risking the potential drawbacks of long term implementation.  If there are flaws, staff could redesign the program based on what they learned during the pilot period.

        Advisory programs are a fixture of many American high schools.  It is time for Hudson High School to step up by providing a program that meets the needs of both students and staff.

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          by Lily Clardy

          For years, the school has combined the ninth grade honors and academic students in the same English and history classes, but this structure disrupts students’ overall learning. Honors and academic students work at different paces, so why put them together?

          “It was enforced to lift the level of challenge because in the real world we don’t separate people by skill level,” Curriculum Coordinator Todd Wallingford said.

          The separation of academic students and honors students into different classes happens only in ninth grade science and math classes.

          In history and English, the class can focus on one essential question the whole year. This gives both levels time to process the information. But, in science and math, students are separated based on how quickly they can comprehend the material.  

          Separating the academic and honors students in English and history would benefit everyone. Students would get to learn at a pace that’s right for them, and they would all be challenged at their own level.

          While conducting a survey for ninth grade students, out of 64 responses, 34 percent of the students said that they do not want academic and honors students separated. But, 66 percent of ninth grade students said yes, they do want academic and honors students separated.

          Of the 64 students surveyed, 20.3 percent were academic students, and 79.7 percent were honors. So, looking at the data gathered, the majority of students who voted were honors students.

          In the survey, I asked students why they feel the way that they do. The most commonly chosen answers were that the honors students could be going through a lot more material, the class moves too fast for the academic students, the class moves too slow for honor students, and the academic students take longer to complete an assignment.

          Not only will students benefit from this change, but teachers will also. Some teachers think that having two different levels of students in one class is extremely hard to manage and stressful to teach the same material to students who learn at completely different paces. It is practically two classes, but it’s the illusion of one.

          Mixing academic and honors students is unfair to the honors students because it’s based off of the belief that the honors students will positively influence the academic students.

          Since the material delivered to the class is sometimes easier for the honors students, it  can cause those students to play around because they know they can get it done in a shorter amount of time than they were given.

          If this change is enforced, honor students would be faced with a lot more challenges and they would be able to work at their pace with students at their own level. Academic students will also get to learn at their own pace and their work will not always be compared to the honors students.

           

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            by Veronica Hayward-Mildish

            Mental health seems to be regarded as less important than a person’s physical health. But, mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more, and it should be given the same treatment.

            Mental health is the wellbeing of someone’s emotional, psychological, and social aspects of their life. Mental Health is impacted from biological factors, such as genetics, and the chemistry of one’s brain. It is impacted by a range of things, from a fight with family to having trouble in a class.

            Mental health can be impacted at any age, at any time.

            According to the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey, though depressive symptoms have decreased in the last couple of years, in both the town and region, suicide rates and self-harm rates have not changed. No specific numbers have been released by the district.

            School Counselor Jamie Gravelle helps around 50 students at a time, and there has been an increase in the amount of students she sees by 20% in the past couple of years.

            Despite all of these factors, physical health is often still seen as more important than mental health.

            And yes, physical health can impact someone’s everyday life where they wouldn’t be able to continue as normal, but this also occurs for those with mental health issues.

            With four semesters of wellness classes, one would expect that these classes cover a variety of concepts related to one’s well being. Yet there is a clear focus on physical health, with lessons on weight training, team building, cardio, workout planning, CPR, hygiene, aerobics, and more. The strongest focus on mental health is in ninth grade, with lessons related to stress reduction and depression. There is little taught on mental health in other grades.

            “There’s really no difference between asthma or diabetes to anxiety or depression,” says Gravelle.

            Despite this lack of difference, physical and mental health issues are treated differently in the classroom.

            Those students with mental health issues should be able to have restrictions like people with physical health issues do. Some students with 504s, IEPs, and BCAPs are able to get specific accommodations, such as an extended due date for assignments, presenting to smaller groups for classroom presentations, or in the very rare situation, a dismissal of a paper. But that still doesn’t equal the accommodations given to students with concussions, who are able to have work loads eliminated completely.

            Once schools recognize that mental health and physical health concerns are equal, we will be able to progress more as a society, and we will encourage people with mental health issues to tell more people about it and reach out for help.

            Gravelle explained how she definitely felt there are students with issues that she doesn’t know about.

            A student who has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety explained how they felt about the treatment of mental health.

            “Some people think it’s just laziness and being a teenager and don’t help with anything.”

            This student has been diagnosed for four years and has been getting the school’s assistance with it for the same amount of time. This student has been given extensions on work, but they mostly have to check in with teachers more often.

            They feel that the help that they’re getting isn’t sufficient and that people don’t fully understand mental illnesses. If people put in more effort to understand mental health and mental illnesses, then we would be in a much better place, and we would be taking a step in the right direction.

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              CNN and The New York Times have been described by President Trump as "fake news." | by Clement Doucette

              by Clement Doucette

              In an interview with conservative commentator Mike Huckabee, President Trump commented that “the media is — really, the word, I think one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with — is fake.”  

              During the 2016 election cycle, Russian outlets published news stories to social media websites that were truly fake.  However, Trump took this phrase and distorted it into an attack against mainstream media outlets, particularly CNN and the New York Times.  Of course, national media is not without its flaws; all media is biased to a degree, and coverage on CNN and broadcast news can sometimes be brief or surface-level.  Still, publications such as the New York Times and the Washington Post use fact checking and journalistic integrity.  

              While media analysts have described dishonest journalism as  “fake news” for many years, the president’s talking points drive a frightening point into the minds of American youth.  Media illiteracy is a serious problem that should be thoroughly addressed.

              At Hudson High School, teachers have noted an increase in students’ disbelief of mainstream media sources and an inability to find appropriate media sources.  Teacher Amy Plackowski works to include aspects of media understanding and literacy into her AP Language, dystopian literature, and linguistics classes.

              “In AP Language, we are looking at rhetoric and credible sources,” said Plackowski.  “In dystopian lit we are talking about censorship and the media, what is credible, and what is not.  Even in linguistics, we talk about language and how it can be manipulated.  I think there are a lot of us teaching it.”

              While teachers have been including these valuable lessons in their classes, Plackowski noted a lack of continuity across departments.  

              “If we have a lecture in history or in another class about finding a credible source, students may not be able to transfer that understanding to an English class,” said Plackowski. “Then, we have to kind of start all over again talking about what credible sources are.”

              Plackowski cited the work of librarian Jessica Caron as being integral to finding appropriate sources.  She has been working with students to teach universally applicable research methods and basic media literacy skills.   

              “I think this dovetails really nicely with a lot of content.  For example, science teachers can talk about how to tell if a study is a good study.  I think there is definitely room for this,” said Plackowski.

              Still, there is more to be done.  

              Elizabeth Albota teaches an elective class on media literacy in which students learn how to find bias in the media and in research sources.  However, Albota’s class has been met with low enrollment and a widespread lack of understanding of media bias from students.

              “I think we’ve just hit a point in America where there’s so much information that none of it is making sense to anybody,” said Albota.  “I think there is a problem in that my generation is assuming that there are things in place for your generation that are not in place. Your generation grew up with different understandings of information.”

              In addition to the the generational gap, Albota noted that high school classes generally lack detailed lessons on media literacy.  These lessons often require too much time to teach during her English classes, since students often do not have strong background knowledge about locating media bias.  Still, the low enrollment of Albota’s media literacy class and the lack of understanding from students underscores the need for more instruction on this subject.  

              Freshman Bianca Chaves appreciated the idea of increased media literacy lessons and noted that she would have difficulties in locating reliable sources and media bias.

              “I’ve never come across a fake news story before,” said Chaves.  “If a story were obviously fake, I would know it, but if it were something that sounded true, I would think that it’s true.”

              Exposing students to a wide range of credible media sources and fact-checking lessons would help to alleviate this problem.  Chaves noted that some of her classmates use the term “fake news” to refer to CNN and other mainstream media sources without knowledge of what the term truly means. It seemed as though these students were repeating sound bites from speeches given by Trump.

              “I think these students are saying that CNN is fake news to a point where they are making others believe it,” said Chaves.  “I think this is harmful, especially to some students who are new here or who don’t know that CNN isn’t fake news.”

              Combatting this misinformation begins with offering students a selection of appropriate media sources and information regarding improper sources.  Clearly, students spreading misinformation is a prime source for fake news misconceptions.  Freshman Josh Czerwinski is aware of current events and keeps track of the news through multiple credible sources.  Although he noted that some sources he views are biased, he does not think that they are “fake news.”  

              “Oftentimes [the bias] will vary,” said Czerwinski.  “I could think that NPR is biased towards one topic, but less biased for others.  It varies depending on the article.  I don’t use CNN or Fox News too often, and I wouldn’t say that they are fake. I think they are average news networks and are biased towards some topics, but they can be completely reliable and give proven facts.”

              Czerwinski also noted that Trump’s “fake news” rhetoric is harmful and misguided.

              “I think it is harmful to call these sources fake news because they can be very reputable depending on what they are talking about,” said Czerwinski. “I feel like Trump is saying that if the news is against him, then it is fake.  I know that this did happen and that these are facts.”

              Although students joke that “CNN is fake news,” I experienced difficulty finding students who truly believe this rhetoric.  Still, the need for media literacy is underestimated.  The lack of media literacy at Hudson High School presents itself with subtlety.  In general, students do not believe Trump’s rhetoric word for word.  Rather, they consume media without the proper background for finding bias or for fact checking.  

              Clearly, classes run on tight schedules. Still, including time for media literacy is of the utmost importance. Making media literacy a mandatory component of the eighth grade curriculum could give students the background they need.  In eighth grade, students are impressionable and could learn harmful misinformation from their peers and older students.  Teaching these young high schoolers about media literacy would give these students analysis skills to last throughout high school and beyond.  Otherwise, misinformation and insidious Russian-bot fake news stories may prevail.

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                Senior Elizabeth Cautela reads the morning announcements during spirit week. | by Clement Doucette

                by Clement Doucette

                The morning announcements are an integral part of Hudson High School’s daily routine.  

                Each morning, I join seniors Elizabeth Cautela and Lauren Eadie in reading the announcement script over the loudspeaker.  Typically, we improvise, tell jokes, and add humor to enliven the plain script.  Still, our voices can go unheard.  Some students ignore the announcements, choosing instead to talk over them.  

                Although there is little time for socialization during the school day, ignoring the morning announcements and our Friday Morning Lights broadcasts is a sign of disrespect.  This behavior reflects a larger, school-wide problem; arts programs at HHS go ignored and students’ work goes unseen.  

                Elizabeth Cautela has faced this problem.  In addition to the morning announcements, Cautela creates short films, spends many hours volunteering at HUD-TV, and is an active member of the HHS Drama Society.  She notes that these activities are forgotten in favor of sports.

                “I think the school culture is very sports oriented,” said Cautela.  “It’s not really driven towards everybody else.  If you’re not playing a sport, then who are you?”  

                Cautela noted that participating in these activities can make students feel like outsiders. Communities within HHS can be insular, and members may not branch out of their cliques.  

                “I’m just doing HUD-TV and theater activities now, and I feel like it doesn’t even register to some people that these are a thing,” said Cautela.  “I wish people would support the arts more and go to drama shows to get another perspective on things.  Everything’s not just one way.  We can learn from all these other clubs.”

                As an active member of the Drama Society, Cautela has been judged for her role within this group, and she senses that there is a stigma surrounding her participation.  Still, she notes that by participating in the Drama Society, she is no different than other students.  

                “Theater is like a sport; you practice a lot, and then you perform like you do in a game,” said Cautela.  “We’re all HHS students, and I think that gets lost along the line somewhere.”

                The Drama Society is not the only non-sports aspect of Hudson High School that is neglected; students involved with the fine arts sense that their work is often overlooked.  Ariana Jordan-MacArthur has been involved with the fine arts at Hudson High School and feels that these events are under-promoted.  In her opinion, this is a result of students talking over and neglecting the morning announcements.  

                “I think it’s disrespectful that people talk over [the announcements], mostly because there are a lot of people who want to listen to them,” said Jordan-MacArthur.  “People always talk over them, and we can’t hear them.”

                Typically, events such as the HHS Art Show and Drama Society productions, are announced through the morning announcements or through sparse promotion on social media.  If students ignore announcements and do not know that these events are set to occur, then fewer students will attend.

                “We don’t get to hear the announcements about events going on at the school,” said Jordan-MacArthur.  “This makes it a lot less likely that people will go to these events.”

                I understand that changing the culture of a school is difficult, if not impossible.  If students are unwilling to attend non-sports related events, they will not attend them.  However, there is no room to disrespect others’ work.  

                Highlighting student accomplishment in the arts through social media would help.  Students who are willing to attend artistic events but may not have heard about these events on the announcements would be informed about them.  An integral part of learning is found in respecting and learning from the ideas and perspectives of others.  Emphasizing creative and artistic pursuits in school would make artistic students feel valued and would provide all students with a platform to showcase their ideas.  Keeping quiet during announcement broadcasts would help to make these ideas known to all students.  

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                  Junior Pat Fortuna and eighth grader Charles Togneri edit a film at HUD-TV. | by Clement Doucette

                  by Clement Doucette

                  Climbing the steep, difficult path up Mount Wachusett proved to be more challenging than any of us had anticipated. My senior mentor, Bruno, led me and my eighth grade friends up the mountain. As new high schoolers, we were inspired by the accomplishments of our senior mentors; we heard their stories of college applications and fond high school memories.

                  Now, as a senior, I see a startling disconnect between the upperclassmen and the eighth graders. Generally, the two groups are isolated from one another, rarely communicate, and as a result, the eighth graders tend to be the subject of generalizations by the upperclassmen.

                  “There’s a lot of [eighth graders] that are really intelligent and nice,” said eighth grader Alessa Maiuri. “However, they still get the title of the ‘eighth graders’ and are overall a generally despised grade.”  

                  The geography of HHS only exacerbates this growing problem, since it relegates eighth graders to their own section of the high school.  The program of studies prevents underclassmen from enrolling in many of the same elective classes as upperclassmen. Consequently, many older students are unaware of the accomplishments and talents of younger students. These two groups can only interact through after school clubs and activities, or through team-building exercises such as the ones held during my eighth grade year.  

                  “I think some of the upperclassmen don’t classify [the eighth graders] as being part of the high school, even though they sort of are,” said Maiuri.  

                  Of course, not all seniors view the eighth graders in this way. Clubs such as HUD-TV have been successful in connecting students from different grades. Still, these benefits are not extended to all students, as only a fraction are members of these clubs.  

                  Wellness teacher Dee Grassey taught at Hudson High School during the mentor program’s heyday. She noted that the mentor program acted as an important bridge between upper and lower grades and supports its return.  

                  “I know they’re coming from a middle school to a high school, which is difficult,” said Grassey.  “Of course, puberty is a big issue, which has to do with their maturity.  I know that those are all factors, and I do think that they need a big brother or sister.”

                  Although the mentoring program would make the rough transition between middle and high school easier, it requires dedication and input from the seniors.

                  “The problem with senior mentoring is that seniors have a lot on their plate,” said Grassey.  “What I’ve seen consistently is a problem with keeping it up throughout the year.  It’s that commitment.  The program starts off really great, but by this time of the year, it’s gone.”

                  Commitment is a problem within any extracurricular activity. Without a system to hold members accountable, students that are not passionate either lose interest or drop out of the program. Others become bogged down with coursework and other extracurriculars.  Senior Ariana Jordan-MacArthur expressed these concerns.

                  “I just remember it being a really, really fun trip,” said Jordan-MacArthur. “However, I don’t remember being all that connected with my senior buddy.  I mostly just remember having fun with my friends.  I do know that the buddies were there; they were just not really that interactive.”

                  Despite these issues, Jordan-MacArthur wants to see the program return.  “I would love for [mentors] to come back, and I would love to be [one], too.  I know that our class is very spirited and likes to involve everybody, so I think that if we did bring that back, we would have a lot of people who would be willing to be mentors for the eighth graders.”

                  Still, any interaction between senior mentors and eighth graders is better than none.  Giving attention to the school’s youngest students could make them feel accepted in the school community.

                  “With every class, you have that core group that need more help or guidance.  Children sometimes learn more from other children than they do from adults,” said Grassey.  “That’s why I think mentoring programs are so important.”

                  Despite the efforts of staff members, students must build those connections between the grades. These connections need to be natural and unforced.  Bringing back the mentoring program could build these valuable connections that both eighth graders and seniors desire.

                  “You can hold meetings and think up great ideas,” said Grassey. “However, if the students don’t follow up with it, there’s nothing one person or an advisor alone can do.”  

                  Although the program needs to have some degree of structure, providing interested seniors and eighth graders with an interest survey could pair like-minded students. Having an eighth grade mentee or a senior mentor with similar interests would make these students more willing to talk and to continue the program.

                  When I participated, my mentor and I did not share much common ground, and as a result, I did not learn as much from him as I could have.  The keys to a successful mentoring program are natural conversations, shared interests, and meaningful dialogue.

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                    Grade 9 course selections: 2017-2018 | by Brianna Cabral

                    by Brianna Cabral

                    Freshmen are given 44 electives to choose from, 36 of those electives being fine arts or technology/business, which only leaves 8 other academic electives. Freshmen should not be burdened with course limitations and fewer academic options due to their youth.

                    This system was put in to separate the upper- and underclassmen. The school tried to keep certain electives available to only eighth and ninth graders, and most electives are specific to grades 10-12 due to more advanced topics. One of the biggest concerns was having 13-15 year olds grouped with 16-18 year olds because of the difference in maturity. But this did not entirely prevent them from being in the same classes.

                    These age groups already interact. Freshmen can take classes with juniors and seniors in their electives and language classes.

                    The world language classes include all grades.  In my own Portuguese class last year, when I was a eighth grader, I had a senior, a junior and a handful of sophomores. We see them throughout the halls and at lunch every day. Student athletes are most likely on teams with seniors and other upperclassmen. Only the core classes like history, science, English, and even math separate the grades.

                    These restrictions prevent freshmen from taking Contemporary Legal Issues, all World Cultures classes, Ethics, Economic Theories, Cold War Era & Film, Sociology, Astronomy, Zoology, Marine Ecology, TV News, Honors Accounting I, Architecture & Interior Design, Exploring Mobile Apps, Photography, Advanced Theatre Studies(full year), and more.

                    It is understandable that a freshman may not get into a class because there are more seniors/juniors requesting it. Without the ability to even sign up for the class, freshmen have no chance.

                    For some classes this restriction make sense. To take anatomy and physiology, students need to have taken biology. Students take biology freshman year. But for other classes listed above, there is no requirement to take another class prior to that one.

                    Sometimes the content requires this separation of grades. June Murray’s World Culture classes are only open to 10-12th graders. She is “not sure that World Cultures is an appropriate class for freshmen. As an anthropology course there is candid discussion of human behaviors that may not be appropriate content for younger students.”

                    Freshmen and sophomores are only one year apart, but according to Murray, “sophomore year most students are beginning to develop academic independence, something most freshmen do not have.” Murray has had experience with teaching freshmen before, so she knows how they learn. “Whether we are 50 or 15 we have different needs.”

                    With four different World Cultures classes, she thinks two would be appropriate for freshmen to take, Middle East and Eastern Faiths.

                    “[They] have to be interested, and [they] really have to be prepared to take on independent learning, and if [they] are not I don’t want to be in the position where I am holding [their] hand,” Murray says.

                    The other two World Cultures classes are Latin America Africa and Asia Oceania. They are anthropology classes, so there is talk about human behavior. “It’s a pretty intense correlation between psychology, sociology, and anthropology. I think that the type of conversations we have about human behavior, many ninth grade parents don’t want their 14 year old discussing sexual practices,” Murray believes.

                    If parents are uncomfortable with their child being exposed to this content, then the child shouldn’t take the class. But, they are already in high school, and for most freshmen they have already been exposed to sexual content from health classes or other sources. By exposing them earlier, then they will likely deal with it better in the future.

                    Without opening these classes to the lower grades, we are limiting students’ opportunities to take more classes. Now because students can not take the class they wanted freshman year, they have to take it sophomore year, but their schedule is limited. They can’t take many classes. This problem could cause students to miss the opportunity to take the class before they graduate.

                    This is a prime example of where a new class could be added for ninth graders and maybe even eighth graders. By adding electives for science and social studies at the eighth and ninth grade levels, students will have a greater probability of getting into a class that interests them.

                    As an eighth grader, I was put into 2 business/technology classes and an art class. These classes do not connect with the career I’m interested in. Even for freshmen year I wished there was an extra wellness elective or medical classes because that is what I want to do in my future.

                    Adding more electives will engage students and better prepare them for their future, and isn’t that what schools should be doing?

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                      by Thomas Freeman

                      The rapid foreign and domestic policy changes by the Trump administration have hurt American interests at home and abroad.  We have withdrawn from a significant trade deal cutting some economic ties with Asia as well as our American partners. At home, Trump has erased an Obama-era protection of transgender people, enraging advocates and possibly endangering transgender people themselves.

                      Donald Trump is currently in the process of breaking apart the Trans Pacific Pact (TPP) trade deal. Former President Barack Obama treated trade deals as a priority during his tenure, and this particular deal would have bolstered America’s position in the Asia-Pacific region, where China is growing in influence.  Donald Trump has disagreed saying it favored big business and claiming it was a horrible trade deal.

                      But in order to understand the significance of this policy change, it’s important to what the trade is.  When it was drafted, President Obama and other world leaders hoped that the TPP would strengthen economic ties between these nations, slashing tariffs and fostering trade to boost growth. Members also hoped to foster a closer relationship on economic policies and regulation.

                      The TPP was designed so that it could eventually create a new single market, something like that of the EU; but all 12 nations needed to ratify it before it could come into effect. However, the victory of Donald Trump in last year’s Presidential election was the writing on the wall for the TPP.

                      U.S. participation was the major linchpin for the deal. It may be possible for the other countries to forge a smaller scale pact in its place, but it can’t go ahead in its current form. Those other member states are Japan – the only country to have already ratified the pact – Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Peru. All taxes would be removed for goods for countries in the agreement.  

                      After the U.S. pulled out of the TPP, China expressed an interest in joining, which would further strengthen their hold in the region and weaken the U.S. significantly. Backing out of this trade deal could be the action that cuts the U.S. out of one of the most rapidly growing economies in the world, potentially weakening America’s future as an economic superpower.

                      Trump has also removed protection for transgender people using the bathroom of their identity. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the action as a “state’s rights issue,” adding that Trump believes that individual states and districts should set their own policies. This means that nothing should change in the northern or coastal states but in the states where conservative opposition to transgender rights has been stronger, the rights are in danger. This had led to an uptick in hate crimes with authorities classifying four murders of transgender people on March 1 as hate crimes.

                      Very simply, after a person either undergoes gender reassignment  surgery or otherwise fully commits to one gender, they should use the bathroom that matches their identity. Removing these legal protections puts transgender people in danger.  

                      These new changes have hurt the United States economic future and have added cause for concern for trans people.  In order to fix this we need to take the initiative and expand our trading influence in Asia. We must also provide protection to minority groups, such as transgender people, before hate crimes become out of control.